I’ve been reflecting this week on the terrible events in Paris and of course, at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney before Christmas. It was incredible to see footage of more than three million people of different political and religious persuasions marching in Paris in defense of the cultural values which they treasure.
All schools, and systems of schools are ultimately an expression of the values of the society in which they exist. While these values may be expressed differently, at their heart is a deep desire for freedom of thought, tolerance of ideas and respect for human dignity.
Values permeate our educational narrative – they inform learning and teaching. We teach because we want our students to value knowledge, to cultivate independent and critical thought and to favour careful deliberation. We want students to seek self-improvement and be responsible, compassionate global citizens. We want students to be informed about society, committed to the common good.
It is important at this time to reflect upon how we express these values in our learning communities; how these values are imbued in the daily life of schools. I don’t believe we can assume the values in our school are understood and learned through some sort of osmosis. We need to be be proactive, explicit and deliberate.
I suggest we could start by asking questions about how we approach the process of learning and teaching. Some simple ideas might be: are the pedagogies we are utilising engaging all learners? How do we demonstrate tolerance of ideas in our learning spaces? How is respect shown on playgrounds? Do all students and parents have the opportunity to express their ideas freely? Do we rely on unchallenged assumptions or evidence when making decisions?
There are many questions which may be worth reflecting on as a whole school community and the answers we come up with could be well worth sharing.
When I was in primary school, our motto was compassion, justice and a love of learning. It is still a powerful reminder of the role of education in democratic and civil societies. Education is essentially humanising and may be the best defense we have against the scourge of terrorism.